Want To have Your Own Vegetable And Flower Plants? Prepare Your Hotbeds First

Want To have Your Own Vegetable And Flower Plants? Prepare Your Hotbeds First
by Marshall Clewis

If you want to grow your own vegetable and flower plants, prepare your hotbed this month. It should be located in a sheltered position, well drained, with a southern exposure. The size varies with the need but it should be constructed to handle the standard size sash, which is three feet by six feet.

Cypress or redwood boards two by ten inches make a good frame for the hotbed, which consists of a pit 2-1/2 feet deep with four inches of cinders or crushed stone in the bottom, covered with 20 inches of fresh horse manure and mixed with straw. The frame should be six inches above the soil in front and 15 inches above the soil in the back or north side, five feet nine inches wide and as long as needed.

The manure should be hauled in about two weeks before it is to be used. Before it is put into the pit it should be piled in a compact heap and as soon as fermentation and heating begin, it should be forked over and replied until the entire heap seems to be uniformly heated.

The manure is then placed in the pit in six-inch layers and tamped thoroughly, especially in the corners and along the sides. It is essential that the manure be well tamped, otherwise it will not heat and the bed will be useless.

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The sash should then be put on and after the temperature of the manure has dropped to about 85 or 90 degrees, the soil can be added and the bed is ready to plant. If the plants are to be grown in flats placed in the hotbed, two inches of soil on top of the manure is sufficient, but if the plants are to be grown to maturity, six inches of soil should be used, while four inches is enough for starting early plants.

A hotbed thermometer should be part of the equipment, for serious losses may occur when planting is done before the temperature has become low enough. It is also a good plan to have a thermometer suspended in the bed to record air temperature.

Ventilation is essential to furnish the plants with fresh air, reduce humidity and control the temperature. The amount of air given the beds should be gradually increased until the sash can be left off during rather warm days.

A week or ten days before the plants are set in the field the sash should be left off day and night so the plants may be hardened off. Under normal hotbed conditions it requires about eight weeks to produce good sized, stocky vegetable plants.

Cool season crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, head lettuce, kale, onions, broccoli and of course the dahlias for a bouquet later in the season should be started about February first, while the warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant should be started the first week in March.

If hotbeds are to be permanent, the sides can be constructed of concrete. Hotbeds may also be heated by electric wire cables, by flues under the soil and by steam or hot water heat in the bed.

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